do or be? (I’m holding back from total irreverence in the title at least*)

by Andrea Elizabeth

Please forgive the difference in the worthiness of subjects. I suppose I can justify it with the big picture of how far we have deviated from God’s image, and from where we must turn.

The next paragraph in Ambiguum 7 introduces the teaching of the virtues. St. Maximus says that virtues are not logoi (which I understand to be energies in that the logoi of a tree is not the essence of God). He says that

The essence in every virtue is the one Logos of God… our Lord Jesus Christ, as it is written: God made Him our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, and our redemption. These things are of course said about Him in an absolute sense, for He is Wisdom and Righteousness and Sanctification itself, and not in some limited sense, as is the case with human beings, as for example in the expression a “wise man” or a “just man.” Which is to say that anyone who through fixed habit participates in virtue, unquestionably participates in God, who is the substance of the virtues. For such a person freely and unfeignedly chooses to cultivate the natural seed of the Good, and has shown the end to be the same as the beginning…and it is by conforming to this beginning through the inclination of his will and by free choice, that he hastens to the end, diligently adhering to the praiseworthy course that conducts him unerringly to his point of origin. Having completed his course, such a person becomes God, receiving from God to be God, for to the beautiful nature inherent in the fact that he is God’s image, he freely chooses to add the likeness to God by means of the virtues, in a natural movement of ascent through which he grows in conformity to his own beginning.

Oh dear, I hear my Protestant background crying blasphemy! at worst, and salvation by works at best. Perhaps though, it is salvation from works. If we see Christ as our Wisdom, for example, we aren’t trying to work up our own wisdom. We feel the need for wisdom, so we look to Christ who shares Himself with us and then we know and do and I guess become. The Orthodox are quite adamant, though, to use St. Athanasius’ take on God becoming man so that man might become little g god, and St. Peter 2:1’s take on partaking of the divine nature by grace. St. Maximus doesn’t seem to be quite so worried about it.

*“To be is to do”—Socrates.
“To do is to be”—Jean-Paul Sartre.
“Do be do be do”—Frank Sinatra.